We commend Mr. LaTourette for pointing out the many reasons to support conservation, from the cultural to the economic, and he is absolutely right when he states that “conservation is a shared value” – quoting President George W. Bush’s Deputy Interior Secretary Lynn Scarlett from earlier this year: “Energy, water, air quality, natural hazards, outdoor recreation, healthy lands and wildlife. These are not Democratic issues. They are not Republican issues. These are issues for everyone in every community.”
However, in examining the conservation legacy forged by the Republican Party over the years, Mr. LaTourette overlooked the history of one of our most iconic pieces of public land, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Arctic Refuge, our nation’s finest example of intact, naturally functioning Arctic and subarctic ecosystems, is a shining example of bipartisan conservation efforts.
It was a Republican president, Dwight Eisenhower, who in 1960 first established the Arctic National Wildlife Range, known today as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It was a Republican Senator, Senator Bill Roth (R-Del.), who in the 1980s introduced the first Wilderness bill to provide permanent protection to what is considered the “biological heart” of the Arctic Refuge, the Coastal Plain. And this year, bipartisan Wilderness legislation has been introduced in the House by Representatives Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass).
Stronger protection for the Arctic Refuge is supported by a majority of Americans – this issue is one of the increasingly rare instances where Democrats, Republicans and Independents can all come together and celebrate preserving our shared natural heritage. Mr. LaTourette is right: we must place a greater emphasis on preserving our public lands. Permanently protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by expanding its legacy of bipartisan support would be a great place to start.
Shogan is executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League.